To iron out hurdles on ground, govt to issue ‘simplified’ disability certificate norms by November-end

The DEPwD is working with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to finalise guidelines for all 21 disabilities listed under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, according to officials.

“We will notify revised Standard Operating Procedures [SOPs] for certification of 21 disabilities mentioned in the RPwD Act next month. For the past few months, we have been working with six-seven expert committees of the health ministry to further simplify the SOPs. We plan to notify the SOPs by November end,” DEPwD secretary Rajesh Aggarwal told ThePrint.

The expert committees constituted by the ministry last year are for reviewing SOPs for locomotor disability, visual impairment, hearing impairment, developmental disorder, mental illness, blood disorder, and multiple disorders, said a senior ministry official.

The aim, according to DEPwD joint secretary Rajeev Sharma, is to make the certification process faster and hassle-free for PwDs.

“A need was felt to revise the guidelines keeping in mind the ground situation and the problems faced by people and medical professionals while issuing certificates,” he said.

Passed by Parliament in 2016, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act replaced the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995. The act, which came into effect in April 2017, not only increased the number of categories under disabilities, but also, among other things, raised reservations for PwDs — from three percent to four percent in government and government-aided higher education institutions, and from three percent to five percent in government jobs.

The 2016 Act recognises 21 disabilities — including 14 such as Sickle Cell Disease, Thalassemia, and Autism — which were not there in the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995.

After the 2016 act was notified, the social justice ministry issued guidelines for evaluation and procedure for certification of various specified disabilities in 2017.

According to activists like Shobha Tuli, president of the Federation of Indian Thalassaemics, the law had initially mandated an annual renewal of disability certificates, which was amended to three years last year. But she calls for permanent disability certificates.

“These disorders are progressive in nature. We have recommended that a permanent certificate should be issued. We have also recommended some changes in the medical tests that are carried out while examining the disability and its extent,” she said.

According to DEPwD joint secretary Rajeev Sharma, close to 99 lakh UDIDs have been issued across the country so far.

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Activists want UDID issuing process to be faster

From 1 April this year, the central government made the UDID mandatory for 17 centrally sponsored schemes for PwDs.

However, disability rights activists say that it is important to expedite the process of issuing the unique disability identification

“Even today, persons with disabilities face a lot of problems in getting UDIDs made. First, the entire system is online,” T.D. Dhariyal, former state commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Government of National Capital Territory (NCT), told ThePrint.

He added: “In cities, it is still possible for people to apply for it. But in rural areas, not many are able to apply for it. There is a need to relook at the process. Second, there is a need to ensure that the cards are issued within 30 days.”

According to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment website, in order to apply for a UDID, a person with disabilities has to fill out a form online. The form is verified by the chief medical officer or the district medical officer, who then sends the person for assessment by a specialist.

The assessment report is then sent to the hospital’s medical board which “takes (a) decision on the percentage and type of disability, (the) validity of disability certificate and other such issues of the PwD”, according to the ministry portal. Based on the recommendation of the medical board, the chief medical officer/district medical officer issues UDID.

Dhariyal claimed, however, that specialists are often unavailable, forcing PwDs to make several trips to hospitals.

“There is a need to streamline the system so that people don’t end up making multiple trips to the hospital. The patients should be called only when the doctor is available,” he said.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

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